Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has appointed Matt Shirtcliff, Baker County district attorney, to replace the retiring Greg Baxter as Baker County Circuit Court judge Nov. 1.
Baxter, who has served as Baker County Circuit Court judge since Jan. 1, 2001, announced in July that he would retire Oct. 31.
Shirtcliff has been district attorney since 2001 and has worked for the district attorney’s office since 1994.
“I appreciate the governor’s appointment and her confidence in me based on 25 years of service to the citizens of Baker County,” Shirtcliff stated in a press release.
Shirtcliff’s tenure in the Baker County District Attorney’s Office includes six years as a deputy district attorney, beginning in 1994. He was elected district attorney in 2001 and served for five terms.
Shirtcliff said he expects the governor to appoint an assistant attorney general from the Department of Justice to help in the District Attorney’s office during the transition.
Shirtcliff’s present term was due to expire in 2020. Candidates seeking to fill the position will compete in the May 2020 election with the winner possibly being appointed to fill the remainder of Shirtcliff’s term through the year, he said.
There are two assistant district attorneys on the staff. Michael Spaulding joined the office in January of 2012 and Kevin Imhoff has been on the job for about a year.
“I am proud of the work we have accomplished for the community and the citizens of Baker County,” Shirtcliff said. “It has been a team effort with the great staff in the District Attorney’s Office and the amazing members of the law enforcement community in Baker County.
“I will always be grateful for your service and your support,” he stated in the press release. “I also want to thank Circuit Court Judge Greg Baxter for his guidance and mentoring over the years.”
Baxter’s term would have run through 2024 had he not announced his plans to retire on Oct. 31. Shirtcliff will stand for election to a six-year term as Baker County Circuit Court judge in 2020.
“I’m just excited to get started,” Shirtcliff said of his appointment as judge. “I’ve worked hard to get ready for this.”
Shirtcliff, 52, said he expects to follow Baxter’s lead in the way he administers the court.
He is especially looking forward to providing support from his position for people who struggle with mental health issues.
Although it will take time to implement, Shircliff said he plans to establish a mental health court, modeled after the drug court system.
“I enjoy talking directly to people,” he said, adding that his knowledge of programs available in the community should be a benefit to helping people who need mental health as well as drug and alcohol treatment.
“But I’ll still be a strong judge on public safety and sentencing,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of trial and courtroom experience with major cases and that helps me to be ready to serve as judge.”